Violet Ugly(The Granite Harbor Series Book 2)By: J. Lynn Bailey
Granite Harbor, Maine
It’s always easier, staring at Ryan Taylor from afar. His stormy, dark eyes give a warning to strangers: stay away. Tall at ten years old, Ryan pretends that his alcoholic father doesn’t bother him. But he does. I see it in his navy-blue eyes when his dad returns from sea.
It’s summer. The heat from the sun on my face makes me feel warm, almost happy. I watch as Ryan stalks toward me, quietly, as I lie in the middle of the mustard field. The scent of sea in my nose. I pray this pain goes away—the pain in my heart from the riptide that has torn through the Young family this morning. We knew it was coming. I should maybe feel relief that my mother is no longer in pain, but I want to retreat back to before she had cancer. When there wasn’t a cluster of pills on the counter. When it didn’t smell like a hospital on 4578 Opal Street at the top of the hill with the view of the ocean.
“Hey,” he says, breathless.
“You been running?” I peer up at him through squinty eyes.
“Yeah. From my house. When I heard the news.” Ryan sits down next to me and then lies down, placing his hands behind his head, peering up at the same summer sky.
“You okay?” I hear him whisper.
I don’t know.
I feel sick, and numb, too, I guess.
“What are you supposed to feel when your parent dies, Ryan?”
The birds chirp.
I wait. Praying that his answer will deliver some peace.
Life is going on at a pace I wasn’t prepared for. Moving forward. It has picked up and left my mother in the past. And I’m paralyzed.
“I don’t know.” He’s quiet for a moment. “I guess it’s supposed to feel like how ugly looks maybe.”
I laugh because I picture Ryan as ugly, and I just can’t with his skin that looks like the color of caramel, eyes the color of the Atlantic, short dark brown hair, and a long, lean body that is always ready, willing, and able.
I want to tell him I’m sorry his mother left. Before Ryan could walk, his father had just come home from a two-week sea trip, and his mother bent down, kissed him good-bye, and never came back. According to Ryan.
I suppose he knows what ugly feels like. I suppose he knows what it’s like to have his life turned upside down, twisted, knotted, nasty.
“People are shitty,” I say.
“Yeah. People are shitty.”
We both stare up at the bright blue sky and look for our mothers. We see the sadness, life’s imperfections as the clouds float by. We take heed in the fact that life would just be easier if we didn’t get so attached, if we didn’t become loved, if we didn’t give love. Because, in the end, this ache in our hearts wouldn’t hurt so bad.
I feel Ryan’s eyes on me, but I continue to stare at the deformed elephant that drifts past me.
“One day, this all won’t hurt so much, Violet,” he whispers.
And, when he calls me this, the stinging of my eyes begins.
Swallow it. Crying won’t bring her back, Mer, so you just stop it right now.
I don’t feel like I’ll be okay. I feel as though my skin has been turned inside out.
He doesn’t offer any other words, but he pulls his hand from his head and reaches through the grass to hold mine.
“Thanks.” I smile through my pain.
With barely a sound, Eli appears and takes his spot next to Ryan, placing his hands behind his head, staring up at the sky that extends from here to California, where things might be easier. Maybe, in California, the sun makes everything better. I wonder if the sun shines brighter there and if maybe, because of that, death doesn’t feel so heavy, like overweight baggage that you can’t manage to put down or walk away from. I wonder if people in California feel death the way people in Maine do.
“Funeral’s Friday.” Eli’s voice is tired. “Pop put you down as pallbearer. To help carry Mom’s casket, Ryan.”
Ryan doesn’t have to say yes. Eli knows he’d do anything for Mom.
“Mrs. Ida’s bringing over her famous chicken tonight, Mer,” Eli says.
And this is where my role as sister, daughter, and mother begins. “We’ll have that for dinner.”